Author Spotlight: Jim Murphy
From Miss Beth at Main
When you think about reading history, do your eyes glaze over? When you imagine picking out a history book, do you see rows upon rows of dusty old books written by dusty old people lining dusty old library shelves? And, are they filled with boring facts, figures and long dry stories guaranteed to put you to sleep?
Well, maybe some of them are. But not all, and especially not the books written by author Jim Murphy. While Murphy’s intended audience is middle-grade children, he tells history in easy language with vibrant detail that will also appeal to adults (like me!) who want the story but don’t want to drown under endless recitations of facts and figures. His books are loaded with photographs and drawings that help the reader see the time period and the players more clearly.
Three of my favorite titles are Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting, A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom and The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution.
Truce chronicles the Christmas Truce of 1914, when German and British soldiers defied orders from their commanding officers and ceased hostilities for Christmas. With vivid detail and archival photographs Murphy paints a picture of soldiers from both sides meeting in “no man’s land” between their respective front lines to shake hands and give Christmas greetings to each other.
A Savage Thunder tells of the American Civil War Battle at Antietam. Murphy looks at both North and South perspectives, outlines the strategies and the problems of the day without overwhelming the reader. He presents photos of key players in the battle plus illustrations of the action, which help with understanding.
The Crossing brings to life George Washington’s late-night crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776. To that point, the War for Independence wasn’t going too well. Washington had been appointed commander to a ragtag group of patriots who had little to no formal military training. Utilizing strategy and stealth, Washington’s crew crossed the icy river and took the Hessian forces occupying Trenton by surprise. Murphy keeps the tension high throughout his retelling of this pivotal event.
Jim Murphy has researched a wide range of subjects including war, disease, natural disasters and unique historic events such as the Cardiff Giant hoax. His natural storytelling ability makes learning about history a pleasure.
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